The Nordic schools of the future

07.03.2012
What kind of school day do we want our children and grandchildren to have? Political parties in the Nordic countries are competing to convey their visions of the school of the future. The new research programme Education for Tomorrow will provide funding for research projects that lay the foundation for political action in the educational sector. NordForsk has been given responsibility for administering the research programme by the Nordic Council of Ministers. In addition to NordForsk and the Nordic Council of Ministers, all the Nordic countries will be providing financing to the programme, which has a budget framework of NOK 75 million.

GREAT DIFFERENCES WITHIN THE NORDIC REGION

The PISA surveys reveal major differences in the skills of pupils in the various Nordic countries, and the gap has widened in recent comparisons. This is striking, given that the Nordic countries have a relatively similar basis in terms of ideology and values. Research in this field is therefore of special interest. “We should build further on the key values so fundamental to the Nordic region, where the point of departure is a democratic, egalitarian educational system that includes everyone regardless of ethnicity, gender or socio-economic background,” says Krista Varantola. She is chancellor of the University of Tampere and responsible for the NordForsk programme Education for Tomorrow.

“Research groups can help to achieve selected political objectives that are common to the entire Nordic region, since the countries have largely similar views of the educational policy challenges. The Nordic countries can learn a great deal from each other and will be able to achieve significant results from research cooperation.”

FROM PRE-SCHOOL TO UNIVERSITY

The programme is thematically flexible. The researchers themselves are free to define what constitutes important scientific challenges. In accordance with the programme’s objectives, the projects must be cross-disciplinary and incorporate cooperation across national borders. The programme is designed to study the entire educational cycle from pre-school to university and how the educational system can meet the needs of the future. Through comparative studies the programme will explore similarities and differences, strengths and weaknesses in the Nordic educational systems.

Krista VarantolaThe programme’s thematic focus may be strengths and weaknesses in the current educational system: teacher education, school administration, classroom teaching, the relationship of the educational system to the welfare state, and the like.

“In addition, the programme has earmarked allocations for an initiative on dropouts in the school system, meaning adolescents who have stopped attending school. This is a crucial topic that costs society many millions and has negative consequences for the individual,” says Ms Varantola. The Nordic Council of Ministers has also allocated additional funding for research on school meals.

Ms Varantola has high expectations for the programme and believes that the research activity could be of great significance for the educational sector in other European countries as well. “The programme will strengthen educational research and promote larger-scale initiatives of high scientific merit. And, not least, it will create better conditions for the educational system, teachers and pupils,” Ms Varantola concludes.

Read more about the programme here

Text: Marius Hagen og Janina Lassila
Main photo: Karin Beate Nøsterud/norden.org
Portrait photo: Krista Varantola

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